The end of calendar year 2014 is fast approaching, and it brings with it a congested run of fixtures. Manchester United is all set to host Newcastle United on Boxing Day – 26th December.
Louis van Gaal’s Red Devils seem to have finally found their form; winning 6 games and drawing 1 since their loss in the Manchester derby early in November. With tricky matches against Tottenham and Stoke City to follow, van Gaal will be looking to win all 3 points to keep the momentum going.
Alan Pardew had resurrected his team’s fortunes in November, but has seen it all go pear-shaped again after conceding 4 goals each against Arsenal and Tottenham in the league and Capital One Cup respectively, before losing to rivals, Sunderland at home on Sunday.
Old Trafford has seen home team Manchester United winning 7 and drawing 1 this season after a 2-1 loss to Swansea in the first gameweek. "We want to build a fortress at Old Trafford," said van Gaal. "We have made it that already because we have won a lot, and with great results.
Newcastle was one of the seven away teams to win a BPL fixture at Old Trafford last season, but it won’t be as easy to repeat the feat this time.
The Reds have had a horrid time this season when talking of injuries. For the Newcastle game, there have been no positive updates on the same front. Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind are still out of contention. Chris Smalling will be subject to a late fitness test but is expected to start.
They will also be without the services of energetic midfielder Marouane Fellaini due to illness. Louis van Gaal will have his work cut out in rotating his squad in the hectic run of matches coming up. On a positive note, Angel Di Maria made a substiture appearance against Aston Villa and could very well start against Newcastle.
The visitors have some problems of their own. 1st and 2nd choice keeprs, Tim Krul and Rob Elliot are both out along with the likes of Siem de Jong, Gabriel Obertan, Rolando Aarons, Ryan Abeid and Ryan Taylor. Steven Taylor suffered a nasty facial injury in the previous match, but could make it in time for the game.
Cheick Tiote is sidelined too, but through suspension. Cancer survivor, Jonas Gutierrez made a return to football and played for the U-21 side. However, it is highly unlikely that he will return to the first team squad so soon.
Possible Starting Line-ups
Manchester United (3-4-1-2): De Gea; Smalling, Evans, Jones, Valencia, Carrick, Di Maria, Young; Rooney; Falcao, van Persie
Louis van Gaal has enjoyed some great success with his favoured 3-4-1-2 formation after he reverted back to it in the past few matches. With 3 CB’s and 2 WB’s, it gives him the flexibility to switch from attack to defence on the fly to try and control the game.
Carrick in the midfield is the heartbeat of the team. He makes the most passes, and the team hasn’t lost a game this season since his return to the first team. Di Maria though traditionally a winger will provide the creativity from midfield with a free role.
Rooney will play in the hole as the ‘enganche’ – a target man in the midfield and will dictate the attacking plays. With Robin Van Persie and Radamel Falcao as the strikers, there is a lot of firepower in the side.
Falcao hasn’t enjoyed a lot of time on the field so far; with youngster James Wilson, or Juan Mata preferred over him. However, he scored the only Manchester United goal in the previous game and could see his name on the team sheet again.
Newcastle United (4-2-3-1): Alnwick; Janmaat, Dummett, Coloccini, S.Taylor; Sissoko, Colback; Ameobi, Cabella, Gouffran, Perez
Alnwick has some big shoes to fill in till the expected return of Krul and Elliot. Janmaat has probably been the best player for Newcastle this season, putting in work both on the attacking and defensive front. Coloccini will have a big say, being the imposing centre back he is.
Sissoko and Colback will play as the double-pivot in midfield. Sammy Ameobi and Gouffran will play on the wings. Remy Cabella would well be the replacement for suspended Tiote. He is fast and agile with a sound creative brain and will be a good support behind striker Ayoze Perez.
Key Facts and Stats
The last time these two teams clashed on Boxing Day s seasons ago, Manchester United emerged victors with a 4-3 score at Old Trafford.
The Red Devils have won 17 of the last 18 games and been victorious in the last 10 in a row on Boxing Day at Old Trafford.
Manchester United has lost only one of 20 Barclays Premier League matches they have played on Boxing Day (W17 D2 L1).
The Magpies are the only team in the BPL yet to score in the opening 30 minutes of a match this season.
Robin van Persie has scored six goals and assisted three more in his last eight BPL starts against Newcastle.
Ashley Young vs Daryl Janmaat: While Young will be deployed as the LWB, Janmaat will play as RB. Young is traditionally a winger and has the tendency of going forward. He is also a little dicey in defending. Janmaat could exploit this to get behind Young and deliver some of his deadly crosses into the attacking third.
Wayne Rooney vs Fabricio Coloccini: Wayne Rooney may be playing in the hole behind the 2 strikers, but he is easily the most potent attacking threat United possess. He will get forward to partner van Persie and Falcao and it will be up to Coloccini to try and counter the threat. The imposing Argentine defender will have to be at his best to neutralize Rooney’s capabilities, especially at Old Trafford.
Michael Carrick vs Moussa Sissoko: Both Carrick and Sissoko have the herculean task of taking hold of the midfield for their respective teams. While Carrick prefers to sit deeper and dictate play, Sissoko is more energetic, playing as a box-to-box midfielder. It is often said that a game is won if you can gain hold of the midfield. Who wins this battle could well determine the outcome of the game.
Manchester United 3-1 Newcastle UnitedPublished 24 Dec 2014, 23:35 IST